As reported in the news feed a couple of weeks ago, Csanad Szegedi, a leader of the Hungarian nationalist movement Jobbik, was recently “outed” as a Jew. It turns out that, unbeknownst to him, his maternal grandmother was a Jew — a survivor of Auschwitz, in fact.
Unlike many European nationalist parties, Jobbik really is anti-Semitic, and very much in the mold of the original National Socialists. As a result of the sensational revelation, Mr. Szegedi was forced to resign his party post as he came to terms with his new ethnic and religious identity.
As Vlad pointed out at the time, it’s like the old Dave Chappelle sketch “The Black White Supremacist”, in which a blind KKK leader learns for the first time that he’s in fact a black man. A TouTube video of the sketch is (language warning) here.
Our occasional guest-essayist J-Practical has his own take on the topic. What interests him is the grandmother’s story: What did the poor woman think when her own grandson took up a version of the same ideology that sent her family to the death camps?
Csanad Szegedi: Who’s Your Mama, and where’s the real story?
I have to admit, the story of Csanad Szegedi tickles my sense of the absurd.
Ever since I first saw the movie ‘Annie Hall’, I’ve always wanted the chance to figuratively reach off-screen and pull Marshall McLuhan into a situation where some pontificating loudmouth needs to be shut down. If nothing else, I’ve always wanted to see someone else do it.
That’s what somebody just did to the hapless Csanad Szegedi.
Szegedi grew up a Presbyterian, and spent his adult life forming or leading anti-Semitic neo-fascist organizations, and telling the world that Jews “desecrated Hungary’s national symbols”. Then, suddenly some guy in line got tired of the pontification, reached off-screen and pulled in Szegedi’s Jewish grandmother. Szegedi had no clue that she had come from a Jewish Orthodox family, or that she was a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau.
Where do you go from there? Psychology’s concept of the Identity Crisis is just too pedestrian for the story of Csanad Szegedi. Now he’s been forced to leave the extreme right-wing Jobbik party where he’s been a leader and shining star, and to relinquish his elected seat in the European Parliament.
All because he has Jewish grandparents.
What a reversal of fortune.
But honestly, I don’t really care whether he survives, politically or psychologically. To my mind, his pursuit of a hateful ideology and a despicable political platform have put him on par with small bird droppings and midget meadow muffins.
I’m a lot more interested in the grandmother than in Csanad Szegedi. I want her story.
What did the grandmother think, and how did she react, as her grandson built a political career on extremist nationalism and anti-Semitism? What could be worse than to survive the Holocaust, and then watch the second rise of mass anti-Semitism — and know that your descendent was fanning those embers into vivid flames?
There’s a much more interesting story behind the grandmother than behind the thuggish grandson.
What do you feel, when your grandson resurrects the same kind of malevolent nationalist movement that led to the extinction of your family, the end of your innocence, and your personal agony in Auschwitz and Dachau? What was it like to watch your own grandson follow a path that echoes that of an evil young Austrian 80 years earlier?
How did she live with her secret Judaism, knowing that its release would permanently scar her grandson? Did she share the secret with anyone? What kind of discussions did she have with her own daughter — Szegedi’s mother? Who could she talk to about it? What could she say? Where was Szegedi’s mother in all this?
A Jewish grandparent’s love for a grandchild is a legendary relationship, and yet imagine the conflicted pride of a Jewish grandmother in her successful young grandson, whose life’s goal is woven into an anti-Semitic path that she has already traveled once.
She’s the story. Not him. He’s like a Star Trek red shirt — here today, gone today. She’s the complex, twisty plot that I want to understand.